Prostitute Serial Killer
Eleven murders of prostitutes working out of truck stops have been linked to an Ohio serial killer.
On April 19th, 1990, the half-nude body of a woman was discovered behind a truck stop on Interstate 70 in Licking County, Ohio. She had been beaten to death, and all of her jewelry and several pieces of her clothing were missing. Despite a full investigation by local authorities, the victim was never identified.
The murders were along trucker routes
Four years earlier, the body of 23-year-old Shirley Dean Taylor had been found behind a traffic barrier 100 miles to the north. A known prostitute, Shirley had also been beaten to death. In addition, all of Shirley’s jewelry and several pieces of clothing had been removed from her body.
Two seemingly isolated crimes were committed four years and a hundred miles apart. Murder cases often are often solved when a pattern emerges, and in these highway killings, the pattern was just waiting to be discovered. But amazingly, the man who made the connection wasn’t actually looking for it. Investigative Reporter Michael Berens was starting to do research for a newspaper article about serial killers for the Columbia Dispatch:
“I remembered a statement that an FBI agent had once said, that prostitutes make the ideal serial killer victim because they’re transient and often their disappearances aren’t reported immediately. So I started looking at prostitute deaths all across Ohio, primarily using newspaper stories as the way to track those deaths.”
The killer dumped the bodies by the road
Berens began to cross reference unsolved murder cases in Ohio. To his surprise, a distinct pattern began to emerge almost immediately. Eight women, in eight different counties, had been beaten or strangled to death. Each was found alongside a major interstate, each was a known or suspected prostitute, and each was known to have worked at truck stops.
With this in mind, Berens began looking into the little known subculture of Ohio’s interstate truck stops:
“You drive by them and you see these restaurants and these trucks but until you sit there, you don’t see the underbelly, the underworld of these little mini-cities that form each night and then break apart each morning and come together.”
Upon further investigation, Berens says he discovered a flourishing sex-for-sale industry at truck stops throughout the state:
“The prostitutes work off of CB radio and it’s all done anonymously. The prostitute will get on the radio and give her handle and some little catch phrase that she’s developed as her trademark and the truck will answer back and say ‘Yeah, this is the blue Peterbilt in row three, come meet me’. And she goes off to the truck. And then usually once she gets in the truck, she’ll use the trucker’s CB to radio to her next customer.”
On February 8th, 1987, twenty-seven year old Anna Marie Patterson became the sixth known victim in Ohio. In reviewing the investigation of her murder, Berens uncovered several possible clues to the killer’s identity.
Anna Marie had been working at a truck stop in Austintown, just south of Cleveland. Witnesses said her last call was from a driver of a black or dark blue Peterbilt truck. The man used the C.B. handle “Doctor No.” Twenty-five days later, Anna Marie’s body was found alongside interstate 71, north of Cincinnati. Warren County Sheriff James Collins was one of the officers assigned to the case:
“Anna Marie was found about 250 miles from where she was last seen, in a field, in a drainage ditch in about 4 to 6 inches of water.”
Anna Marie’s head had been bashed in and she was brutally beaten. An autopsy revealed that she had been killed within 48 hours of her disappearance. Disturbingly, the condition of her body clearly indicated that the killer had kept it refrigerated for nearly a month. Michael Berens:
“There has been some speculation that some of these victims have been driven many more miles than from where they were last seen to where they were found. There may be an indication that the killer is doing something with these victims, after death.”
According to Berens, the killing spree began nine years earlier with the murder of a woman who has never been identified. Since then, the bodies of seven other victims have been found along interstates in different counties. Each woman had been viciously beaten or strangled to death, and each had jewelry and clothing removed from her body.
A newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, ran Michael Berens’ shocking story, with its compelling evidence that explained how the murders of the eight women were the work of one killer. Ten days later, the Ohio Attorney General and the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association formed a special task force. Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher learned that counties within Ohio were not communicating properly:
“We were finding that what was happening in one county was not necessarily being told to another county. And a clue in one county that may have meant nothing may have meant a great deal in just the adjacent county.”
According to Michael Berens, another alarming clue in this case suggests a disturbing possibility about the killer’s identity:
“This killer scatters these bodies, and that’s the big question, why? There has even been speculation that the killer could be a security guard or even a police officer who knows enough about police investigative techniques to do that.”At least two of the victims were last seen getting into a black or dark blue Peterbilt tractor, possibly pulling a refrigerated trailer. The driver may use the C.B. handles, ‘Dr. No’, ‘Stargazer’, or ‘Dragon’.